Hush-A-Phone Corp. v. United States
|Hush-A-Phone Corp. v. United States|
|Court||United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit|
|Full case name||Hush-A-Phone Corporation and Harry C. Tuttle, Petitioners v. United States of America and Federal Communications Commission, Respondents, and American Telephone and Telegraph Company et al., and United States Independent Telephone Association, Intervenors|
|Argued||October 4 1956|
|Decided||November 8 1956|
|Citation(s)||238 F.2d 266; 99 U.S. App. D.C. 190; 1956 U.S. App. LEXIS 4023|
|Tariffs on Hush-A-Phone device were unwarranted interference with telephone subscriber's right reasonably to use his telephone in ways which are privately beneficial without being publicly detrimental. FCC order set aside and proceedings remanded.|
|Judge(s) sitting||Chief Judge Henry White Edgerton; Circuit Judges Wilbur Kingsbury Miller, David L. Bazelon|
|Majority||Bazelon, joined by Edgerton, Miller|
|Communications Act of 1934|
Hush-A-Phone v. United States, 238 F.2d 266 (D.C. Cir. 1956) was a seminal ruling in United States telecommunications law decided by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Hush-A-Phone Corporation marketed a small, cup-like device which mounted on the speaking party's microphone, reducing the risk of conversations being overheard and increasing sound fidelity for the listening party. AT&T, citing the Communications Act of 1934, which stated in part that the company had the right to make charges and dictate "the classifications, practices, and regulations affecting such charges," claimed the right to "forbid attachment to the telephone of any device 'not furnished by the telephone company.'" During this era, the phones were leased from the phone company, not owned by the consumer.
Initially, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) found in AT&T's favor; it found that the device was a "foreign attachment" subject to AT&T control and that unrestricted use of the device could, in the commission's opinion, result in a general deterioration of the quality of telephone service.
The court's decision, which exonerated Hush-A-Phone and prohibited further interference by AT&T toward Hush-A-Phone users, stated that AT&T's prohibition of the device was not "just, fair, and reasonable," as required under the Communications Act of 1934, as the device "does not physically impair any of the facilities of the telephone companies," nor did it "affect more than the conversation of the user."
This victory for Hush-A-Phone was widely considered a watershed moment in the development of a secondary market for terminal equipment, in addition to contributing to the breakup of the Bell System. It and the related Carterfone decision were seen as precursors to the entry of MCI Communications and the development of more pervasive telecom competition.
- "Phone Company Upheld in Ban on Hush-A-Phone," The New York Times, February 17, 1951, p. 29
|Hush-A-Phone ad, from Telephone History Pages by Mike Sandman|
|Hush-A-Phone ad, from Voice Silencer on Telephone Lets You Talk in Secret in Popular Mechanics, February 1941|
- A copy of the court decision from the DC Court of Appeals
- Cybertelecom :: Customer Premise Equipment - FCC Regulations concerning attachment and marketing of CPE
- Voice Silencer on Telephone Lets You Talk in Secret Popular Mechanics, February 1941